Donald R. McClarey
Marlana Vanhoose is 20 years old. She was not expected to live past her first birthday. She was born afflicted with congenital Cytomegalovirus. Blind, her optic nerve never formed. At the age of two she was diagnosed with a mild form of cerebral palsy. God gifted her with musical ability and she has made a career for herself as a singer. A Christian, she does not let her lack of sight slow her down in this Vale of Tears. She has said that in Heaven she knows she will have sight and that the first thing she will see will be the face of Jesus. In the presence of such faith all the terrible evils and ills of this world are so much dross and dust.
From the only reliable source of Catholic news on the net, Eye of the Tiber:
A number of paragraphs from Pope Francis’ Wednesday General Audience speech appear to have been lifted from Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention speech.
Francis aide Monsignor Guido Marini said late this afternoon that Francis wrote the speech largely on his own, telling EOTT that, “I read it once over, and that’s all. His Holiness wrote it…with as little help as possible.”
During the address, a journalist pointed out the striking similarities to Melania Trump’s speech from the night before, and a plagiarism controversy exploded. A two-paragraph section of Francis’ speech about family values bears nearly identical phrasing to Trump’s RNC address.
“My parents impressed on me the values that you pray hard for what you want in life. That your rosary is your bond, and you do what you pray and keep your promise to God. That you treat you flock with respect,” Francis told those gathered about halfway through his speech.
Compare that to Trump’s, which said, “My parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life. That your word is your bond, and you do what you say and keep your promise. That you treat people with respect.”
Francis went on to stress the need to “pass along the faith to the many generations to follow, because we want the children of God in this Church to know that the only limit to your sanctity is the strength of your novenas and the willingness to remember not to skip a day.”
It’s a near mirror of a line from Trump’s speech: “pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow, because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and the willingness to work for them.”
Marini soon after responded to the controversy, saying “there is no cribbing of Melania Trump’s speech.”
“These were common words and values, and he cares about his Church,” Marini said. “To think that he would do something like that, knowing how scrutinized his speech was going to be this afternoon, is just really absurd.”
The Francis team released a statement moments go, saying part, “In writing his beautiful speech, Pope Francis’ team of writers took notes on his life’s inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected his own thinking. His Holiness’ immigrant experience and love for Rome shone through in his speech, which made it such a success.”
Other questionable parts of Pope Francis’ speech were quotes such as “Ask not what your Church can do for you; ask what you can do for your Church,” “Be not scared,” and “You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your seven storey mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” Continue reading
Something for the weekend. To Canaan. One of the more bloodthirsty songs of our Civil War, it is based on this poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes, published in 1862: Continue reading
Hillary has picked Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia for Veep. In today’s far left Democrat party Kaine passes for a moderate.
He is a “personally opposed” Catholic pro-abort. He in theory supports a partial birth abortion ban, but only with a broad health of the mother exception which would render it meaningless. Democrats for Life stripped him of their endorsement in 2012 when he came out as one hundred percent behind Roe. As a Senator he has a 100 percent rating from Worse Than Murder, Inc. Planned Parenthood and a zero percent rating from National Right to Life. Unsurprisingly, he served in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps for a year in Honduras. This year when his name began to be mentioned as a possible Veep, he signed on to the proposed Women’s Health Protection Act, which if past, would nullify almost all pro-life laws passed in the states or by the federal government.
An interesting defensive pick by Hillary. As a former Governor of Virginia he likely was picked to help put the Old Dominion state in the Democrat column which will probably be a tight fight as it was in 2012. This is an indication that Clinton feels she has done enough to soothe the leftist Sanders supporters.
At seventy-six minutes it was too long by at least a third and basically consisted of a meandering laundry list of promises to fix perceived ills in the country. As expected, he hit law and order, and terrorism hard. The most moving part of the speech when was when he talked about his meetings with parents who have had kids murdered by illegal aliens. I had my bride, who is an informed voter but does not follow politics with the microscopic analysis that I do, watch it, since she is neither pro-Trump nor anti-Trump. Throughout the speech she made comments: “how are you going to do that?”, “specifics!”, “well he just gave some specifics”, etc. At the end she thought it was a success and that Trump came across as honest. With a voter who doesn’t follow politics closely, and who has been fed a diet by the media that Trump is some sort of combination of Satan and the anti-Christ, Trump probably did do himself some good. Heaven knows it wasn’t great oratory, but it was workmanlike and delivered with a fair amount of intensity. Compared to most of Trump’s efforts, it was a good speech.
My personal reaction was rather meh. I have a great love of grand political oratory, Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, FDR, William Jennings Bryan, and Trump will never be in that category or come even close. However, I, and other political junkies, were not his target audience, and I think Trump last night did what he had to do to make himself appear an acceptable alternative to Hillary Clinton.
For myself, I kept waiting for the Republican response speech after Trump’s speech. What Trump is selling has little connection to conservatism or Republicanism since Reagan. At best Trump might be compared with an old style liberal Republican in the Richard Nixon mode, although his isolationism and America First populism seems straight out of the thirties of the last century. I think he will defeat Clinton and then after he becomes President we will find out where he really stands, although I will be shocked if he has any interest in reducing the size and power of government, or doing anything that a conservative president would attempt to do.
Judged strictly by oratory, the wrong Trump may be running. I was curious as to whether Ivanka Trump would live up to her hype. She did: Continue reading
Nick Bottom at The Catholic World Report imagines a press conference given by Pope Francis if he decided to use the same reasoning he deployed in Amoris Laetitia to other sins:
Pope Francis: Good morning, everyone. Thank you for coming.
I have invited you today because I have had a change of heart that I must make public. In a homily recently, I spoke rather forcefully about employers who refuse to pay their workers a just wage.
I have had a chance to reflect on that homily in the light of the principles I set forth in my Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. I brought a copy so I can refer to it as I take your questions. Please be patient with me as I find the appropriate passages, eh?
I believe I was too harsh in describing exploitative employers as “slave drivers” and “true bloodsuckers.” I too must remember that the name of God is Mercy! Amoris Laetitia rightly criticizes those who “hid[e] behind the Church’s teachings, sitting on the chair of Moses and judging at times with superiority and superficiality.” For “it is not enough simply to apply moral laws . . . as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives” (AL 305). As paragraph 308 of AL reminds us, “the Gospel itself tells us not to judge or condemn” (AL 308).
I also regret another remark I made in that homily. The pope must be humble, he must be honest, no? Somewhat precipitously, I said that cheating workers is “a mortal sin! This is a mortal sin!” I must now express that in a more nuanced way.
In Amoris Laetitia I made it clear that I was “speaking not only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves” (AL 297). That of course includes employers who find themselves in the situation of slave-driving their workers.
For them too, we must keep in mind the distinction between objective sin and subjective guilt. Since there can be in employers’ lives many “mitigating factors . . . it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation” – such as exploiting their employees – “are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace” (AL 301).
Now for your questions.
A reporter: Your Holiness, I’m a bit puzzled about who has been saying the things that you say should no longer be said. But leaving that aside, are you not concerned that making the well-known distinction about sin and guilt here might have the effect of watering down the Church’s teaching on the rights of workers?
Pope Francis: No, no, no. The Church’s teaching about fair wages remains. The Catechism is still the Catechism! However, while it is certainly true that exploiting workers does not “correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel” (AL 303), “it is reductive simply to consider whether or not an individual’s actions correspond to a general law or rule” (AL 304). We must always look at the person rather than the rule.
Indeed, we may even say that sometimes it is impossible for an unjust employer to avoid doing wrong. Continue reading
Eighty years ago the Spanish Civil War began on July 17, 1936 with elements of the Spanish military rising against the leftist government. Rorate Caeli has been running a series on the murderous persecution of the Church in the Spanish Republic. Go here to read it. Here is the victory message of the Pope at the conclusion of the Spanish Civil War that Rorate Caeli published:
«CON INMENSO GOZO»
OF HIS HOLINESS
(April 14, 1939)
I will be doing a write up on the speech tomorrow. I would like commenters and contributors to react to the speech in the comboxes as it is delivered tonight.
Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that the California State Board of Education voted unanimously to include study of the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans in history and social-science classes. This LGBT-focused content will be taught in elementary, middle, and high-school grades. Teachers will give students, beginning in second grade, information about diverse family structures, including families with LGBT parents, to help students “locate themselves and their own families in history and learn about the lives and historical struggles of their peers,” according to the text of the framework.
In grade four, as students study the history of California, they will consider the history of LGBT individuals in their state and learn about the emergence of the nation’s first gay-rights organizations in the Fifties. The framework provides the following example of LGBT history:
In the 1970s, California gay rights groups fought for the right of gay men and women to teach, and, in the 2000s, for their right to get married, culminating in the 2013 and 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decisions Hollingsworth v. Perry and Obergefell v. Hodges.
Fourth-grade students will also learn about Harvey Milk — “a New Yorker who was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 as California’s first openly gay public official” — in the context of immigrants who come to California from across the country and the world.
Eighth-graders will learn about the role of gender in history, including the role it played in “constructing the enslaved as in need of civilization and thereby rationalizing slavery.” Additionally, eighth-grade students will study the way in which movement toward the Western frontier allowed for significant alterations in gender norms. Southwestern women, the framework says, “felt trapped or limited by their gender in a place and time so dominated by men.” Students will also learn that boarding schools removed Native American children from their families and imposed “Christianity, U.S. gender binaries, and social roles.”
My favorite speech last night was by Newt Gingrich. I have never seen Gingrich give a bad speech and he was at the top of his game last night. Note how he deftly attempted at the beginning of his speech to turn the non-endorsement of Cruz into an implicit endorsement of Trump by Cruz. He then went on to make a devastating speech against Hillary Clinton. The smartest man in American politics, it is a tragedy for the nation that his inability to not engage in tawdry infidelities earlier in his life cut short his political career after he had masterminded the Republican winning of the House for the first time in almost a half century. If Trump wins in the fall, and I abide by my prediction that he will, I hope that Gingrich is his chief of staff.
Mike Pence never has been known as an orator, but he rose to the occasion last night and gave the best speech of his career. He will give the Trump campaign some much needed stability and dignity, and, surprisingly, some good humor. Trump made a good choice.
However, the best Vice Presidential acceptance speech I have ever heard, indeed the best speech I have ever heard at any political convention made by anyone not named Ronald Reagan, was that of Sarah Palin in 2008:
Only Trump knows why he decided to give a prime time slot to Ted Cruz when he knew, based upon an advance copy of his speech, that Cruz would not endorse him. It might well be a final sign of contempt for a defeated adversary who Trump believes is now harmless. “Let him say what he wants”, Trump might have thought, “what do I care?”
As for Cruz after the personal attacks that Trump had made against his wife and father, he could not endorse Trump. He plans to run in 2020. He knows that there are two possible outcomes in the fall. If Trump loses he will not be associated with what most Republicans will then regard as a mad episode in the history of their party. If Trump wins, Cruz likely assumes that his Presidency would be a train wreck of epic proportion and that if Trump runs again he will be vulnerable in the 2020 primaries. Continue reading
The personal secretary of the Pope Emeritus is speaking out again.
Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s long-time personal secretary, has given a sweeping interview in which he accuses his fellow German bishops of downplaying Catholic dogma, and insists that popes cannot change the Church’s with “half sentences or somewhat ambiguous footnotes.”
Gänswein, who also serves as Prefect for the Papal Household for Pope Francis, made his remarks in an interview published Monday in the Ravensburg newspaper Schwäbischen Zeitung.
“Considering the baselines of their theological convictions, there is definitely a continuity” between Benedict and Francis, Gänswein said, according to a Catholic News Agency translation.
“Obviously, I am also aware that occasionally doubt might be cast on this, given the differences in representation and expression” between the two men, he added.
“But when a pope wants to change an aspect of the doctrine, then he has to do so clearly, so as to make it binding,” noted the 59-year-old archbishop, a canon lawyer who formerly worked in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
“Important magisterial tenets cannot be changed by half sentences or somewhat ambiguous footnotes,” he said, in an apparent reference to the controversy over Amoris Laetitia. Continue reading
Dinesh D’Souza’ s movie Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party is being released this weekend and I am seeing it with my bride and my son. Full review to follow. In the meantime D’Souza explains at National Review Online how the Clinton Foundation made a fortune off destitute Haitians:
Where did it go? It did not escape the attention of the Haitians that Bill Clinton was the designated UN representative for aid to Haiti. Following the earthquake, Bill Clinton had with media fanfare established the Haiti Reconstruction Fund. Meanwhile, his wife Hillary was the United States secretary of state. She was in charge of U.S. aid allocated to Haiti. Together the Clintons were the two most powerful people who controlled the flow of funds to Haiti from around the world.
I don’t think much of New Jersey governor Chris Christie but he was on target last night. Returning to his federal prosecutor past he led the Convention delegates in a roaring tour of a few of the greatest mistakes and crimes of Hillary Clinton.
Father Brian Harrison at One Peter Five examines the problems that arise when a pope contradicts an earlier pope:
Last week saw the release of an important interview (PDF link) given by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna and one of Pope Francis’ most trusted theological advisers and spokesmen, to the Roman Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica. The topic was the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (AL):
This interview has already made waves round the world, mainly because of His Eminence’s insistence on three points: first, that an apostolic exhortation such as AL is indeed an authoritative magisterial document, containing teaching that Catholics must assent to; secondly, that all previous teachings on marriage and the family must now be interpreted in the light of AL; and finally, that AL is indeed to be understood as allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist in some cases, even without a commitment to live ‘as brother and sister’.
I actually have no quarrel in principle with Cardinal Schönborn’s first point, about the status of apostolic exhortations. Though relatively recent in origin, they are fairly high in the ‘pecking order’ of magisterial documents – probably just a tad beneath encyclicals. To a large extent they are indeed hortatory and pastoral in tone and content, rather than strictly doctrinal. But Schönborn is correct in pointing out that when certain passages are worded in such a way as to manifest the Pontiff’s intention to inculcate some doctrinal truth, that certainly counts as magisterial teaching. I also agree with the principle of theological method that underlies Cardinal Schönborn’s second controversial statement – that all previous magisterial statements on marriage and the family must now be interpreted in the light of AL. However, what His Eminence says is not the whole truth.
Let me explain. It has often happened in the historical development of Catholic doctrine that certain teachings which at an earlier stage were not fully explicated were subsequently clarified by new interventions of the magisterium. For instance, the ancient faith of the Church that the Blessed Virgin was without sin did not make entirely clear whether her perfect sinlessness began at the very moment of her conception. Hence, as is well known, some distinguished theologians over the centuries disputed her Immaculate Conception until Bl. Pius IX finally settled the question dogmatically in 1854. So when a later magisterial teaching adds precision or clarity to an earlier one, or draws out its logical implications, then of course we’re going to interpret the earlier statement(s) in the light of the later one.
But what happens when the reverse is the case – when a more recent magisterial statement is less clearly expressed than an earlier one? This has been a problem with certain documents of Vatican Council II. Since the sometimes deep theological cracks between ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ Fathers had to be papered over so as to get a consensus vote, the final texts on some topics – e.g., religious freedom, biblical inerrancy, ecumenism, the definition of Christ’s Church, his social kingship, and whether those dying as non-believers can be saved – are less clear than earlier relevant statements of the magisterium. In this new situation, correct theological methodology requires us to interpret the new teaching in the light of the old one. Unfortunately, Cardinal Schönborn’s one-sided presentation says nothing about this complementary norm.
In both situations, the basic interpretative principle is the same: we should interpret less clear magisterial statements in the light of those that are expressed more clearly, regardless of which happened to come first. That common-sense norm derives from a still more basic principle, namely, the revealed promise of Jesus that his Holy Spirit will always be present in the Church to guide and keep her in the path of truth (cf. John 14: 16-17, 26). So when two apparently contrasting magisterial statements can reasonably be harmonized, they should be.
However, that raises another question: What if it seems impossible to reconcile two papal affirmations dealing with faith and morals? This brings us to the third and most contentious of the controversial positions now espoused by Cardinal Schönborn. Some have sought to reconcile with previous papal teaching Pope Francis’ statements in AL #305 and its notorious footnote 351, which says that “in certain cases” Catholics living “in an objective situation of sin” (notably the divorced and civilly remarried) can receive “the help of the sacraments” – sacraments which the same footnote identifies as Penance and Eucharist. According to would-be reconcilers, the Holy Father should here be understood as implicitly restricting this sacramental “help” to those who commit to live ‘as brother and sister’.
Given the context, this bland reading of note 351 never struck me as very plausible. In any case, it has now been rejected decisively – almost scornfully! – by the learned prelate whom Francis himself has repeatedly designated as the most trustworthy commentator on the new apostolic exhortation. Moreover, this occurs in an interview that the Pope would almost certainly have read beforehand. (Every issue of this top-drawer Jesuit journal is vetted by the Vatican Secretariat of State prior to publication.) When editor Spadaro asks Schönborn if he agrees that it’s “obvious” Pope Francis is not limiting this sacramental “help” to couples living as brother and sister, His Eminence immediately responds, “Yes, certainly!” He then spells it right out: the present Holy Father “does not stop short at the kinds of cases that are specified [by John Paul II]in no. 84 of Familiaris consortio.” (That is, those cases where the couple abstain from sexual intimacy.)
Hopefully Schönborn’s authority will at least settle the debate as to what Pope Francis means and intends on this point. But let’s look again at this key article of Pope St. John Paul II’s 1981 apostolic exhortation on the family. In the troubled wake of AL, most appeals to the authority of FC #84 have cited its exclusion of (sexually active) remarried divorcees from the Eucharist. But still more basic is what this article says about the sacrament of Penance. For if you can’t be absolved, you can’t go to Communion anywhere – not even in a church where this would cause no scandal. And John Paul affirms, “Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance, which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, . . . take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.”
Now, this is where the rubber hits the road, folks. Pope John Paul, in continuity with all his predecessors from time immemorial, has reaffirmed that only those divorced and civilly remarried Catholics who commit to live in complete continence may be given sacramental absolution. But Pope Francis now says that those who make that commitment are not the only such Catholics who can be absolved.
“Only” vs. “Not only”. No ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ can mask that stark contradiction. But that hasn’t stopped some from trying. We have seen two principal attempts to square the circle. Continue reading
While in Wisconsin, my family and I visited the Civil War museum in Kenosha. It has quite a few fascinating exhibits, including period battle flags, uniforms, films, a toy soldier exhibit showing the stand of the Iron Brigade on the first day of Gettysburg, etc. One of my favorite features of the museum is their gift shop which has a huge collection of used Civil War books for sale. I never fail to find often rare books on the Civil War. Here is a list of my purchases for 43 dollars earlier in the week:
- Jefferson Davis: American Patriot 1808-1861, Hudson Strode (1955)-Poor Jefferson Davis, portrayed as the Devil incarnate by the North during the War, he was often used as a scapegoat by Southerners after the War. The simple truth is that Davis was a gifted man who brought the Confederacy close to independence against all the odds. Hudson Strode was the first historian to have access to many of the personal papers of Jefferson Davis and launched a vigorous counterattack to the image of Davis as a bloodless pedant, revealing him instead as a passionate and complex man.
- The Hidden Face of the Civil War, Otto Eisenschiml (1961)-The Austrian born Eisenschiml was an oil company executive, and a tireless Civil War historian. He is perhaps best known for his 1937 look at the Lincoln assassination which posited that Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton was behind the assassination. I regard this theory as completely loony. However, Eisenschiml was never afraid of controversy and is always entertaining to read. In this volume he savages both the North and the South for incompetence in the waging of the Civil War.
- The Celebrated Case of Fitz John Porter: An American Dreyfus Affair, Otto Eisenschiml (1950)-Eisenschiml takes on the case of General Porter who was court-martialed and removed from the Army for his actions at Second Bull Run, and who fought for 25 years to clear his name, a fight he ultimately won.
- Lincoln’s Scapegoat General: A Life of General Benjamin Butler, 1818-1893, Richard S. West, Jr. (1965)-A book in defense of “Beast” Butler. I like seeing arguments made for impossible cases, and attempting to convince me that Butler was not the most incompetent Union general is close to an impossible task.
- General Sherman’s Son: The Life of Thomas Ewing Sherman, SJ, Joseph T. Durkin, SJ (1959) A biography of the Jesuit son of General Sherman written by a Jesuit. Go here to read about Father Sherman.
- Grant Wins the War, James R. Arnold (1997)-A good one volume look at the Vicksburg campaign, the most decisive campaign of the War.